WoB Talk

January 21, 2013

January 21 – February 2, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kari Maaren @ 4:36 am

Weekends make me so very tired, and yet I don’t really do all that much on them (before the marking begin, that is).  It is one of life’s little mysteries.

Oh…and Casey’s being weird again.  That’s probably a given.

Glee vs. JoCo: A Slightly Different Angle

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kari Maaren @ 4:30 am

I won’t bore you with a repetition of the details of the Great Indie Cover Scandal of 2013.  If you want to read about how the TV show Glee helped itself, practically note for note and possibly even duck-sound for duck-sound, to Jonathan Coulton’s acoustic cover of Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back,” I would suggest you try here.  Or here.  Or here.  Or here.  If you want to listen to the two tracks simultaneously (one in one ear and the other in the other), go here.  Heck…Google “Jonathan Coulton Baby Got Back Glee.”  Lots and lots and lots of things have been said about this already.  Seemingly, the only people who haven’t weighed in are those affiliated in any way with Glee itself.

But I shall not Rant fruitlessly about Fox and arrogance and whether covers are copyrighted.  Instead, I shall simply say:  I told you so.

I write about Glee sometimes.  I don’t like Glee.  Admittedly, I stopped watching it a couple of seasons ago; perhaps it has miraculously improved in the interim, though from what I’ve heard, it’s actually done the opposite.  The main reason for my loathing of the show isn’t entirely the same as that of many of people.  Sure, it is an insult to the very idea of musical theatre; its plotting and characterisation are inconsistent; it has populated a fictional high school with yet another group of beautiful thirty-somethings; even its moments of mild cleverness lead nowhere.  What I regard as its biggest problem, however, is the way the impetus of its writing clashes with its supposed mission statement.

Glee is apparently the story of a group of misfits who struggle against their own unpopularity as they attempt to negotiate the horror that is high school.  As I’ve posited before (on the Rants page before I started posting the Rants on this blog; check the entry for September 19, 2011), the Glee characters read more like popular kids in disguise.  My theory (which may, of course, be vastly unfair) is that the writers were all popular in high school themselves.  They know what unpopularity is like in theory, but they’ve never actually experienced it.  They thus give us a bunch of cheerleaders and football players, have some cardboard bullies throw slushies at them, and announce that they are telling a story of empowerment.  Empowerment, in Glee, seems to equal the attainment of–you guessed it–popularity.

Glee‘s apparent theft from an independent musician whose fan base consists largely of geeks and nerds is not thematically inconsistent with the tenor of the show.  Some have theorised that the musical directors simply didn’t realise that anyone would know who Coulton was.  He is not, after all, a studio musician; he hasn’t signed with a huge label.  Don’t kids these days listen only to really popular music?  It’s a mistake along the lines of thinking that unpopular kids are just socially awkward carbon copies of popular kids.  Sure, some of them may be.  However, it’s probably fair to say that quite a few of Coulton’s fans remember being genuine misfits in high school.  Coulton’s ideal fan is the shy outsider who spends large chunks of time online and thinks about the world in a twisty sort of way.  The Glee kids don’t seem like the kind of people who would ever have heard of Coulton.

That is, in a way, too bad.  A Glee that dealt with genuine misfits could do a Coulton-themed episode without a problem.  “The Future Soon” is the perfect high-school song:  a cheerful ditty about a hopeless nerd enduring the shame of his daily existence by imagining his future as a vengeful cyborg scientist.  “Big Bad World One” and “Code Monkey,” though not set in high school, deal with the crushing defeats of the workplace and unrequited love and could easily fit into a better version of the show.  If the writers were even a little bit brave, they could use “Shop Vac” in relation to the home life of one of the characters.  If you must borrow other people’s music in order to tell your story, borrow the music of somebody who bears even a remote relation to the kinds of characters you’ve got in your story.

I am not advocating a JoCo-themed Glee episode; Glee is doing everything so wrong that it just wouldn’t work.  However, it’s pretty telling that this show about “misfits” has gone and alienated a goodly number of geeks and nerds, most of whom are not afraid to wield the Internet as a mighty weapon.  Whether or not Jonathan Coulton deserves and/or will receive either acknowledgement or compensation for his cover, by opening itself up to the wrath of his fans, Glee has really just demonstrated what it has been all along:  a show by and for people who have never fantasised about conquering Earth with an army of violent robots as revenge for being humiliated in high school.

January 14, 2013

There’s Something About Adler

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kari Maaren @ 2:00 am

I’ve been wanting to Rant about Irene Adler for a while.  Inevitably, someone much more prominent has beat me to it; Esther Inglis-Arkell has an interesting article in io9 called “Why Can’t Any Recent Sherlock Holmes Adaptation Get Irene Adler Right?”.  I agree with many of the sentiments expressed here.  As Ms. Inglis-Arkell points out, Arthur Conan Doyle’s Irene Adler is actually less old-fashioned than the versions of the character that have appeared in the film Sherlock Holmes and the BBC series Sherlock.  Unlike the later versions, the original Irene is not a pawn of Moriarty, and she is actually quite honourable.  In Inglis-Arkell’s words, in Arthur Conan Doyle’s “A Scandal in Bohemia,” a “clever, unconventional, take-charge, and seductive woman is, unreservedly, a good thing.”

We simply don’t deal well with her any more, and not just in the two examples cited in the article.  I would like to take a look at the other side of the coin:  the Irene Adlers who appear–or, significantly, who don’t appear–in two American takes on the Holmes material, House, M.D. and Elementary.

There are two characters in House, M.D. who can be seen as versions of Irene Adler.  One, Rebecca Adler, appears in the pilot episode.  She is the patient of the week; the only truly remarkable thing about her is that she refuses treatment until House can demonstrate that his diagnosis is correct.  They have a conversation in which she quizzes him about himself and his hang-ups; perhaps her insight into his personality is a tribute to the original Irene and the reversal of power in “A Scandal in Bohemia.”  However, once she is cured, she vanishes from the show.  Even this brief appearance may constitute the most accurate recent Adler.  Yet the show involves an actual “Irene Adler” as well.  In Season 5, Episode 11, Wilson (apparently) lies to House’s team, telling them that House used to date a woman named Irene Adler.  As far as we ever know, this really is a lie.  Irene thus appears in the show as a figment:  a lost love who never existed in the first place.

“A Scandal in Bohemia” is in no way a love story; Holmes is fascinated by Irene because she has beaten him, but there is no hint in any of the stories that Holmes is capable of falling in love.  In that same story, in fact, Watson writes:

To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex. It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler. All emotions, and that one particularly, were abhorrent to his cold, precise but admirably balanced mind. He was, I take it, the most perfect reasoning and observing machine that the world has seen, but as a lover he would have placed himself in a false position. He never spoke of the softer passions, save with a gibe and a sneer. They were admirable things for the observer—excellent for drawing the veil from men’s motives and actions. But for the trained reasoner to admit such intrusions into his own delicate and finely adjusted temperament was to introduce a distracting factor which might throw a doubt upon all his mental results. Grit in a sensitive instrument, or a crack in one of his own high-power lenses, would not be more disturbing than a strong emotion in a nature such as his. And yet there was but one woman to him, and that woman was the late Irene Adler, of dubious and questionable memory.

It’s nice that Irene turns out, in House, to be a lie rather than an actual lover, but that still removes a certain reality from her; she can be either a love interest or no one at all.  If Rebecca Adler had been allowed to stand, she might have been a decent, if uninspired, substitute, but Irene-as-figment takes over.  Irene is allowed no independent existence outside House.  Even Rebecca is saved by him.

In Elementary, it all gets ever so much worse.  (Spoilers follow, incidentally; if you don’t want to find out what happened in last week’s episode of Elementary, stop reading now.)  It is possible there will eventually be some sort of massive plot twist involving the revelation that Irene is still alive.  For the moment, however, she is 1) Sherlock’s former true love, who 2) was murdered by a man who 3) turns out to have been Moriarty.  If Irene is still alive, she is doubtless in cahoots with Moriarty, which would put her in the same category as the Irenes of Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock.  If she truly is dead, she has been reduced to the role of the dead girlfriend/fiancee/wife/lover (or, in some stories, daughter/sister/mother) whose murder motivates the hero.  She commits the further offence of making it necessary for Sherlock Holmes, a character who is notoriously single and singular, to have a love interest.  In the context of this particular show, this then creates the potential for unresolved sexual tension between Sherlock and his female Watson.

Why not give Irene Adler her due?  Have we really reached a point at which the two options are “sexy, untrustworthy vixen who serves as the catspaw of a male mastermind” and “dead girlfriend”?  Despite her brief role in the Holmes canon, Irene Adler has pretty clearly made an impression, rather like Moriarty, whose role is equally brief.  Moriarty is, famously, Holmes’s intellectual equal.  Irene Adler beats Holmes.  Yet in the adaptations (even, in a way, in House, in which a character named Moriarty shoots House and then effectively invades his mind as he lies on the verge of death), Moriarty becomes almost unimaginably powerful, while Irene is demonstrated to be inferior to both Holmes and Moriarty.  It sometimes seems a concerted effort to deprive her of her original power.

I would like to see an Irene who truly stood as a modernised version of the character in “A Scandal in Bohemia,” not as either a “strong” woman who was really just a minion and who relied entirely on her sexuality or a mere name tossed around to motivate the male protagonist.  She needs her chance to beat Holmes all over again, and not just in name.

January 7, 2013

January 7 – 18, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kari Maaren @ 7:28 am

I shall take one more week off from Ranting; with luck, I’ll return to it next week.  I just keep getting tired and not having anything to say.

We are now returning to our regular comic schedule (with extra bricks).  Yes, there has been a bit of a time skip; it was inevitable, as the comic takes place in real time, and we just spent four weeks covering maybe three hours.  You will find out what has happened in the interim, so hang tight.

If you haven’t checked out my geeky YouTube channel, here’s the link.  I know the ukulele is often too loud; I’ve included the lyrics beneath the videos in case of excessive frustration.

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